Ohio Democrats on Tuesday sued the state’s top election official over his refusal to provide more ballot drop boxes for absentee voters in the battleground state.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, recently decided that each of Ohio’s 88 counties will get only one drop box to collect absentee ballots in the 2020 election. LaRose has claimed he is open to having more drop boxes, but has said his hands are tied by the current state laws on the books.
The Ohio Democratic Party argues that LaRose already has the authority to add more drop boxes, and that the state needs more this year because of the major increase in absentee voting because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Democrats also fear how a recent slowdown in mail delivery could block votes from being counted, and want more options for voters to deliver their ballots before Election Day, their complaint said.
“Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, elections officials in Ohio are projecting a marked increase in the use of absentee voting compared to prior elections,” the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Franklin County, Ohio, said. The Democrats want the court to conclude that “Ohio law does not prohibit county boards of elections from having more than one secure drop box for the return of absentee ballots or from designating additional locations other than outside the board’s office.”
Drop boxes have become a major flashpoint in the national battle over voting access.
President Donald Trump has railed against drop boxes as part of his larger efforts to discourage mail-in voting. Trump’s opposition even caused Twitter to tell its users the President violated its policies by trying to dissuade people from voting, when he tweeted this weekend that drop boxes weren’t “Covid sanitized,” a fear-stoking comment that isn’t in line with science.
Democratic and Republican election officials from across the country say drop boxes are a safe and secure method to cast votes without going to the polls.
At the same time as the drop box flare-up, court cases over the collection of absentee ballots have become major political flash points because of the US Postal Service’s slowdown of mail delivery as the election approaches. The use of drop boxes can eliminate other potential barriers for absentee voters, such as relying on unpredictable mail service to meet election deadlines and the need for postage.
“I think it’s actually now one of the top issues,” Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper told CNN. “People are being scared about vote by mail … The applications are through the roof right now. What do we tell people?
Ohio sends applications for absentee or mail-in voting to all eligible voters, and voters can cast their ballots or vote in person for nearly a month before the election. Currently, the drop boxes are set to be located at each county’s board of elections office, per LaRose’s interpretation of a state law.
“Secretary LaRose has been and continues to be supportive of legislation that permits additional options for voters to return their absentee ballots,” LaRose’s spokesperson Maggie Sheehan said in a statement Tuesday. “As an executive office holder, he must follow the law as the legislature writes it. His focus at this time remains on getting the Ohio Controlling Board to permit him to pay postage on absentee ballots, effectively making every blue mail box an absentee drop box.”